The recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has rekindled the debate regarding whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in school. This argumentative synthesis essay will present the positions expressed in articles by several different authors that both support and oppose the idea of arming educators. Some of the key issues presented in this essay include information presented in a recent article by Hobbs and Brody (2018) in which they explore why some schools currently encourage school staff to carry guns to deter and respond to gun violence. This essay will also examine ideas that oppose arming school staff members due to factors such as the direct correlation between the increased circulation of guns and gun violence, the complexity and expense associated with arming teachers, and the unlikelihood that armed school staff will be able to stop a school shooter without being killed or injured themselves. This essay will ultimately demonstrate that arming teachers is an ineffective solution to deterring and/or responding to a school shooter and will describe why German Lopez’s article titled, “The Case Against Arming Teachers” provides the most convincing argument opposing the idea of allowing teachers to carry guns in American schools.
Should Teachers Carry Guns?
In addressing the question of whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in school, Saul (2018) examines the experience of Joel Myrick, an assistant high school principal, who survived a school shooting at Pearl High School near Jackson, Mississippi. In this incident, the shooter stabbed his mother to death and then went to school with a .30-.30 lever-action rifle where he killed two students. Myrick heard the first shot and immediately ran to his vehicle to retrieve his handgun. Myrick loaded his weapon and took aim at the shooter but did not fire because he was worried about hitting people in the background. When the shooter noticed Myrick pointing his gun at him, he fled the school and Myrick pursued. Myrick was ultimately able to detain the shooter at gunpoint until authorities arrived. The result achieved in this incident is likely a rare exception when one considers the opinion of Moore (2014) who believes that arming teachers and providing “stop-gap training” does not mean that an armed educator will have the courage, skill or fire-power to stop a school shooter.
Saul (2018) reveals how the event at Pearl High School traumatized Myrick and “he had acute stress for about six months afterward.” Although proponents of arming teachers refer to this incident as evidence of the success of limiting casualties in a school shooting, Myrick himself believes that arming teachers is a bad idea because in his opinion it will flood schools with guns and decrease student safety. Saul (2018) also provides other compelling quotes from Myrick in which he states, “if Luke Woodham had an AR-15, he probably would have killed twenty people instead of two. There is not a sole on the planet who needs an AR-15 except the military.” These statements clearly portray Myrick’s belief that limiting access to guns is his preferred solution to reducing gun violence in schools and not arming teachers. The concern over the availability of military-style weapons is also supported by Chavez (2018) who shares a quote by United States Senator, Chris Murphy in which he states, “If the weapon is a high-caliber, rapid-fire assault weapon, it’s hard to go into a fight if you’ve got just a handgun. That’s not a fair fight. So, get the assault weapons out.” In this statement, Senator Murphy reinforces the idea that an armed teacher is not likely to succeed in stopping the attack of a school shooter using an assault weapon.
Hobbs and Brody (2018) highlight major arguments in favor of allowing teachers to carry guns in their recent article. For example, they describe how proponents of arming teachers believe that it will provide extra security and the ability to immediately respond to a school shooting. Hobbs and Brody (2018) also describe how districts that encourage teachers to carry a gun in school believe that they are deterring gun violence by announcing that they have armed employees but keeping the identity of these people secret. On the other hand, Moore (2104) believes that guns carried by armed school staff must be accessible and this would mean that over time student safety will decrease due to problems that will arise when guns are not handled properly. This type of concern is supported by a case described by Hobbs and Brody (2018) in which a six-grade teacher injured herself when she accidentally fired her gun while using the restroom.
One of the most significant contrasts of the Hobbs and Brody (2018) article when it is compared to the other articles reviewed for this synthesis essay, is they are the only authors that discuss the complications and expenses associated with school safety programs that involve arming school staff. The authors remind readers that armed teachers must supply their own weapons which must be inspected to assure they do not present a safety risk, they must receive special training, they must assure their gun is secure always, and often these armed teachers receive a stipend. To spite presenting opinions in favor of arming teachers, one could argue that Hobbs and Brody (2018) make a fairly good argument for opposition to allowing teachers to carry guns because this solution to deterring school shooting is not simple and there is no proof that it will actually increase student safety.
In the response to the question regarding arming teachers, Lopez (2018) highlights the fact that there is “no good research on the effect of arming teachers or the effect of putting more armed police in schools.” However, Lopez (2018) goes on to describe that the best research available logically states that arming teachers will increase the circulation of guns which in turn is likely to increase the instances of gun violence because increased access to guns “makes it easier for any conflict to escalate into a form of gun violence”. Moore (2014) shares a similar concern that not all teachers possess the good judgment needed to make instantaneous decisions in threatening situations to determine whether a potential threat requires them to pull their gun. Lopez (2108) also presents research that shows how the United States is unique in terms of guns in that America has many more guns and therefore much more gun-related violence than other developed nations.
The second major point made by Lopez (2018) is that an FBI’s report on active shooter events between 2000 and 2013 reveals that a very low percentage of these incidents are stopped by an armed civilian. In fact, unarmed civilians have stopped significantly more of these incidents. This research flows logically and sequentially into Lopez’s (2018) final point in opposition to arming teachers which is stopping a mass shooting is very difficult. Lopez (2018) describes how multiple simulations show that an armed person is much more likely to be killed than to stop an active shooter. Further, Lopez (2018) states, “the fundamental problem is that mass shootings are traumatizing, terrifying events.” In the absence of constant training, most people are not able to respond rapidly and properly to an active shooter. This reality is supported by the FBI’s analysis of active shooters between 2000 and 2013 which reveals that in nearly half of the incidents where law enforcement engaged an active shooter they suffered casualties. Lopez (2018) reminds readers that these are highly trained professionals that are committed, full-time, to respond to these sorts of situations. Given that context, how likely is it that a concealed carry certified teacher is going to succeed in stopping an active shooter? Saul (2018) and Moore (2014) both express similar concerns regarding the unrealistic expectation of requiring teachers to switch gears in a crisis from teaching to serving as an effective defender of the school. To bring his final point home, Lopez (2018) reminds readers that the armed resource officer for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School heard the gunfire and did not enter the school facility to intervene. In short, reality and facts suggest that the solution presented by the now infamous quote by NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, in which he says “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun” is a gross oversimplification and more likely than not to cause more gun violence casualties.
In conclusion, Lopez (2018) provides the best organized and most compelling argument opposing the idea of encouraging teachers to carry guns in school. All the ideas Lopez (2018) presents are supported in the other articles reviewed for this essay. After reviewing the facts presented in these articles, it would be difficult for one to argue with the bottom-line that Lopez (2018) arrives at in his article which is if Americans truly want to confront gun violence in schools then they should consider the facts and find ways to reduce the number of guns in circulation and avoid scenarios that increase the number of guns people have such as encouraging teachers to carry guns.
German Lopez, (2018, March 20). The Case Against Arming Teachers. Vox. Retrieved from http://www.vox.com/policy-and-polities/2018/2/23/17041662/armed-teachers-gun-violence-mass-shootings
Moore, Russ (2014). No, Teachers Should Not Carry Guns. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/29/10moore.h34.html
Nicole Chavez, (2018, February 21). Would Arming Teachers be a Deterrent or a recipe for disaster. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/us/armed-teachers-view/index.html
Stephanie Saul, (2018, February 21). An Armed Principal Detained a Campus Gunman. But He’s Against Arming School Staff. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://nyti.ms/2B19ytR
Tawnell D. Hobbs and Leslie Brody, (2018, February 22). Some Teachers Already Have Guns. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/some-teachers-already-have-guns-1519347813